Testing on Iran-Armenia Pipeline Underway

YEREVAN–Testing has begun on the Iran-Armenia natural gas-pipeline, Armenia’s Energy and Natural Resources Minister Armen Movsisian told reporters during a press conference on Monday, nearly two months after announcing the completion of the pipeline’s second section, reported Armenpress.

The 140km pipeline, which runs from Iranian Tabriz to Armenia’s Meghri region, will bring 2.3 to 2.5 billion cubic meters of gas annually from energy rich Iran into Armenia.

News that the Iran-Armenia pipeline is readying for operation comes less than two weeks after reports indicating that the Russia-Armenia gas pipeline, along with Georgia’s entire gas pipeline network, has come under the ownership of Azerbaijan’s state run oil company SOCAR. Armenia currently imports the majority of its natural gas supply from Russia.

On September 10, Movsisian told Armenian media that Armenia will be able to import Iranian gas in November. But in early October, he indicated that Armenia "does not yet have a need" for Iranian gas.

Iran was reportedly ready to start supplies of gas to Armenia by October 13.

The pipeline, which Movsisian had earlier presented as the solution to "the issue of Armenia’s energy security," has an annual capacity for 2.3-2.5 billion cubic meters of natural gas.

In what seems to be a reaction to SOCAR’s purchase of Georgia’s pipeline system, Movsisian on Monday appeared to signal the possibility that Armenia will begin importing Iranian natural gas sooner rather than later.

“In the case of necessity, it is already possible to import gas from the Iranian side,” the minister said.

Earlier in October, Movsisian had explained that the Iran-Armenia gas pipeline would “first of all solve the issue on energy security for our country,” and “give [Armenia] an opportunity to ensure gas supply in unforeseeable situations, to avoid blows to the country.”

Iran reportedly plans to export some 1.1 billion cubic meters of gas to Armenia annually, and will increase that number gradually to reach 2.3 billion cubic meters by 2019, according to the Armenian Ministry of Energy’s website. For each cubic meter of the Iranian gas, Armenia is supposed to return 3 kwh of electric energy to Iran.

The pipeline’s diameter is 700 mm and it cost about $220 million to construct. Many suspect that the pipeline’s diameter was reduced from 1,420 mm to 700 mm under pressure from Russian energy giant Gazprom, which purchased a majority share in the Armenian section of the pipeline through its subsidiary, Armrosgazprom.

The first section of the pipeline started operation on 20 December 2006, and was officially inaugurated by the Presidents Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran and Robert Kocharyan of Armenia on 19 March 2007.

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